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Grand Rapids Woman Harassed by Fair Housing Do-Gooder

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The tax-exempt non-profit Fair Housing Center (FHC) of West Michigan recently filed a housing discrimination charge against a Grand Rapids, Michigan woman (let’s call her Victim) who posted an advertisement on her church’s bulletin board looking for a “Christian” roommate. According to Nancy Haynes of the FHC, because Victim’s ad specifically states she is offering only for a “Christian” individual to apply, it is a strict violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Truth be told, the only violation in this situation is of Victim’s constitutional rights.

In the first place, the Fair Housing Act is unconstitutional. I know I sound like a broken record. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution does not mention the regulation of housing as an enumerated power of Congress. Thus, housing falls under the jurisdiction of state power in our system of federalism. Since the ad in question is not a violation of Michigan state law the actions of the FHC of West Michigan amount to little more than legal harassment of a property owner.

Naturally, that is not the way Ms. Haynes sees it. She does admit that Victim “…can actually, in practice, not rent to a non-Christian. But she can’t make the statement. The statement alone is a violation of the act. What she can do in practice she can’t make a statement about”. This is sort of like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” of the rental housing business. What sense does it make? It seems the law was only written to make lawyers rich. What else is new, right? In essence, the Fair Housing Act is not about anti-discrimination after all – it is solely about political correctness. This, of course, makes all the politicians who over the decades have proclaimed the law fights discrimination in housing liars. Surprise, surprise!

Whatever the Fair Housing Act does it is also unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional rights of property owners. Freedom of speech and the free exercise of one’s religion are bedrock rights held by every American. Victim is being denied both by the Fair Housing Act. What’s more, the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution prohibit the deprivation of life, liberty, and property without “due process of law”. Victim has not been accused of a crime and has not been afforded due process of law. By placing stipulations on how Victim can use her property the government is essentially depriving her of the full use thereof.

The big question is, how did we get to this point in America? How is it that a church parishioner who is simply looking for a roommate of the same faith got so entangled in a legal quagmire? It’s quite simple. There has been an erosion of property rights in America since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. The Act rightly banned government from passing laws which segregated lunch counters, water fountains, and buses, but it went too far when it reclassified certain private property as public property, thus violating the constitutional rights of property owners. In other words, as repugnant as discrimination is, Congress had no constitutional right to force any business owner to serve anyone they didn’t want to. The 1964 Act opened the floodgates for violations of property rights like the one experienced by Victim.

In the final analysis, Congress does not have the authority to regulate housing let alone pass laws that violate the constitutional rights of Americans. But, since at least the 1960s that is precisely what it has done. Instead of letting the free market and local communities deal with undesirable behavior, Washington uses force to tread upon the constitutional rights of our friend Victim and millions of others. Until Americans elect property rights representatives to Congress the violations will continue. So in the meantime be careful about how you use your own property.

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About Kenn Jacobine

  • Kenn, by coincidence, my own article on this topic was published on Blogcritics today just 20 minutes after yours. We have different takes, so our articles are not duplicative.

    You contend that the Fair Housing Act is unconstitutional because housing falls under the jurisdiction of state power, and should therefore not be usurped by Congress. “As repugnant as discrimination is,” you write, “Congress had no constitutional right to force any business owner to serve anyone they didn’t want to.”

    The problem is, Kenn, that when it was passed in 1968, the Fair Housing Act was a national response to the widespread failure of states–and not solely those in the Deep South–to abolish the longstanding abuses of Jim Crow segregation, which included discrimination in housing.

    Of course today’s Michigan case is absurd. But has the Fair Housing Act outlived its usefulness? I’m afraid there remains a hard core of racial, ethnic and religious prejudice in this country that makes that law regrettably necessary to this day. Naturally it must be enforced sensibly (which is not true in Grand Rapids). But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We still need the Fair Housing Act.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    I read your article and I agree about political correctness being out of control.

    Let’s be clear that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as I wrote was justified in abolishing Jim Crow Laws. These were discriminatory laws passed by governments. Equal protection under the law needed to be reaffirmed. The Law went to far by violating the property rights of owners by forcing them to serve everybody. I wouldn’t want them to mandate who I must permit to enter my home. Just ask the Grand Rapids woman if this is too far-fetched a position.

    Instead, the free market could solve the problem of discrimination. If a shop owner in a town refuses service to anyone, it would be publicized and others could boycott the establishment until the shop owner complied with common rules of decency. Most business owners welcome green from anybody of any color. If they don’t they won’t be in business for long. Perhaps in some towns in the deep south this is not true, but then minority citizens probably have bigger problems then whether or not they can shop at a white hardware store.

  • Robin

    I would understand the case if the woman was a landlord and chose not to rent to a non-Christian. But a roommate? They are fully aware of discrimination when the roommate is chosen, but object to it in writing?
    If I was a non-Christian needing to rent an apartment there, I would happier narrowing my choices of apartments than wasting time being interviewed by someone who has no intention of renting to me. Crazy!

  • The notion that a “free market” can resolve disriminatory practices, well, Kenn, again you’ve re-set the bar….. And I’m not sure it’s not a liquor bar you re-set with that one…. Perhaps you should revisit the reality of the Jim Crow south AND current-day America with regard to racism.

    As for this being illegal, a landlord would be in trouble for advertising this in a building they did not occupy. A Realtor could not advertise this. A owner-occupant or resident can pretty much advertise for whatever they want, gay, Jewish, smoker, smoking hot gay Jewish lesbian….(intentionally redundant for effect)

  • Kenn Jacobne

    And where did Jim Crow laws come from? – the government that you love so much. We have tried government coercion for decades now, it’s time to start respecting property rights again and let the free market which contributed the most to American strength and wealth do its thing. If people own property they ought to be able to do with it what they want otherwise we should end the charade and have a communal system.

  • zingzing

    “And where did Jim Crow laws come from? – the government that you love so much.”

    sort of. but sort of not. they were codified by the gov’t. but damn if that shit ain’t straight from “the people.” they never would have been enacted had the gov’t not pussied out and allowed “elections” with armed whites keeping blacks from voting. the gov’t was forced to pass this shit because the powerful whites in the south would have it no other way… and not just those involved in the gov’t, but the voters who were “allowed” to vote down there.

    it wasn’t some grand governmental idea. it was a capitulation to “standards of living” in the south.

  • considering the govt is the people I have no idea what Kenn is talking about

  • Kenn Jacobine

    yes, the government is the people and I despise when the people use the force of government to get their way at the expense of somebody else – Jim Crow, so-called fair housing legislation, war, corporate welfare, etc, etc, etc…..